Archive for August, 2008

Saturday, August 30th, 2008

Palin as VP pick

I think it’s really cool that Palin could be the next vice president of the US. I thought a VP had to be a resident of the US, though. Wait, what to you mean “not that one”…? -m

Thursday, August 28th, 2008

Geek Thoughts: organic food

I hereby refuse to eat any fruits or vegetables that are not certifiably carbon-based.

More collected Geek Thoughts at

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008

1st annual Muse Cup

A new mead-only competition in Colorado. Submissions for this year’s competition accepted Sep 8 through 18. -m

Tuesday, August 26th, 2008

Geek Thoughts: magenta

The color magenta has no wavelength. It exists only in your mind.

More collected Geek Thoughts at

Monday, August 25th, 2008

Milorad Cavic is a cool guy

He won an olympic silver medal in the much-publicized race where the gold winner came in 0.01 second faster. And he blogs. He writes:

On winning a SILVER medal: I am completely happy, and still in complete disbelief that I was able to achieve this feat! I’m not joking… It’s a tough loss, but I’m on cloud nine. I congratulated Phelps and his coach Bob Bowman. I’m just glad the race was fun to watch for everyone. It was a pleasure for me, really.

What a fantastic attitude. I wish I had my head on that straight soemtimes. Milorad, if you are ever in the South Bay, I will buy you a beer, or a 1000-calorie energy drink, or whatever. -m

Sunday, August 24th, 2008

Trying to read _Playing for Keeps_ on an iPhone

Mur Lafferty’s new superhero novel is making the rounds. She’s encouraging everyone to buy a printed copy on August 25 (buy it here) to make a nice impression in the bestseller lists. I’m a sucker for these kinds of promotions. The full text also recently appeared on the Escape Pod feed, under a Creative Commons license. It’s a whopping 35 megabytes, including illustrated comic book covers…a nice touch.

It would be really nice to have this with me to read during spare moments without the bulk of the printed book. Hmm.

My question is: how I can read it on an iPhone? Ebook support isn’t that great so far, especially for the PDF format. I know about the data:url trick, but it doesn’t work with 35 megs. Has anyone successfully set up an iPhone to read this book? What software and/or conversions did you use? Comment below. -m

Saturday, August 23rd, 2008

MarkLogic RDFa parser

This post will be continuously updated to contain the most recent details about an XQuery 1.0 RDFa parser I wrote for Mark Logic. It follows the Functional RDFa pattern.

At present there is little to say, but eventually code and more will be available. Stay tuned.


Friday, August 22nd, 2008

The deal with Geek Thoughts

By now you’ve likely noticed the Geek Thoughts postings here. This is an experiment on a few different levels.

What makes comics special? To what extent are pictures, often little more than stick figures, a critical part of the web comic experience? Can a web comic still be funny and thought-provoking with only words?

Specifically with regard to yesterday’s posting, an homage to Garfield minus Garfield, and slightly-more-than-homage to xkcd: what does taking away the seeming-essential part reveal? Is it of the same or different nature as before? On the plus side, don’t worry about this blog becoming an xkcd transciption service–that’s not the point. Thinking (and maybe laughing) is.

It’s also an experiment in zero-overhead publishing. Setting up a dedicated blog, separate site, separate comment moderation, all that jazz…would be hard. Lower friction is the difference between a smooth running engine and a smoking heap of metal, and the same goes in life. If Geek Thoughts develops a huge following, maybe some day there will be all of that and T-Shirts too. But for now, it’s easy enough that I can actually do it, which is what matters in the beginning.

If this line of argument seems faintly familiar, it’s because I’ve used it before, with my (still sporadically updated) Patternalia series, inspired by Christopher Alexander’s works.

If you appreciate any of this, the best way to show it is with a link. Thanks! -m

Thursday, August 21st, 2008

Geek Thoughts: xkcd minus xkcd

Reporter: So quantum teleportation–

Geek: The name is misleading. It’s a particle statistics thing.

Reporter: So it’s not like Star Trek? That’s boring.

Geek: Okay, I’m sick of this. Every time there’s a paper on quantum teleportation, you reporters write the same disappointed story.

Reporter: But–

Geek: Talk to someone else. I’m going to the Bahamas.



Attribution: xkcd 465.

More collected Geek Thoughts at

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008

Rant: BN Publishing’s edition of _The Art of Dramatic Writing_

Lajos Egri’s book has some good content, but it’s hard to read. I mean, physically difficult. I don’t have the necessary copyright law ninja skills to be sure, but I think this 1946 book might be in the public domain, judging by the many editions available on Amazon. But stay away from this one, published in 2007 by BN Publishing.

The typesetting is so bad I think it must have been done in notepad.exe. The margins of the oversized pages are narrower than my pinky, and the text runs all the way across. No columns. No indentation on or space between paragraphs. No typographic quotes. No em-dashes. No special formatting for extended quotations–of which there are many–or any other way to tell them apart from the running text. Random line breaks. And a ridiculous number of glaring errors, misspellings, even a 1 instead of a !. What did they do, hand retype it?

The Search Inside link on Amazon takes you to a different edition from a different publisher, one which is much more readable. If you decide to pick it up, I’d suggest maybe this edition or this one. And for BN Publishing, I recommend this book.

The book focuses on playwriting, but it will be vaulable to anyone wanting to get a bigger-picture feel for why some stories resonate with people and some fall flat. -m

Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

Geek Thoughts: success factors

Without question, the #1 most important success factor in being a Sith Lord is making sure your apprentice cannot kill you.

More collected Geek Thoughts at

Monday, August 18th, 2008

New mobile number

I have a new mobile phone number now. If you need it ask. Don’t call the old one, it’s gone… -m

Saturday, August 16th, 2008

Geek Thoughts: perception

Next time you drive on a freeway, look up to see how many power lines you pass under. Most people never notice these, even on common commuter routes. But once you perceive one, you’ll be seeing them all over the place. What else works this way?

More collected Geek Thoughts at

Friday, August 15th, 2008

Mead Tasting

A great mead tasting event at Rabbit’s Foot tonight. There are a few new commercial meads since my last visit, an excellent raspberry mead and a saison-style braggot. And lots of homebrew mead flowing freely as well.

Say, if anyone in the South Bay is interested in a study group for Mead Judge Certification (likely in the form of weekly meetings at Rabbit’s Foot), let me know. -m

Wednesday, August 13th, 2008

Geek Thoughts: beer is just another RPG

To be a Certified Beer Judge, a GeekDrinker needs to score 70/100 on a written test as well as gain 5 experience points, half of that from judging. Talk about leveling up!

More collected Geek Thoughts at

Tuesday, August 12th, 2008

Captchas are getting really hard these days…

Or maybe a certain wireless carrier is getting more incompetent.


Sigh. It’s going to be a long two years. I hope the iPhone is worth it. -m

Monday, August 11th, 2008

Geek Thoughts #0

Geek Thoughts? It’s like a web comic, minus the stick figures. Occasionally funny, often random, always geeky.

While the Yahoo! board was furiously debating the merits of a Microsoft takeover offer, a heated dispute arose about one PowerPoint slide showing sales figures over a recent quarter. To resolve the dispute, they had to call in a GeekThinker. He carefully examined the data, then said: “Don’t worry. No graph is perfect.”

More collected Geek Thoughts at

Sunday, August 10th, 2008

Another Gold

My traditional mead, the one that took years to make took the gold in the 24B (Traditional, semi-sweet) category at the mead-only Arizona Mead Cup. (results) This one goes back before the Great Hard Drive Crash, where (combined with a freak that-directory-didn’t-get-backed-up-bug) my early meadmaking records were lost. But there are a few hints left online.

Here it is, in Jan 2006, almost through fermentation. How nice and clear it looks. It was started in November of 2005 with some of the clearest orange blossom honey I’ve ever seen, from Pam the honey lady at the Mountain View Farmer’s Market. I literally lost an entire night of sleep over this batch, when I incorrectly added some runoff from oak chips.

Seriously, this was about my 4th batch of mead ever. I also bottled it way too soon. It carbonated up in the bottles, and had an unbalanced sweetness to it (called “insipid” in the tasting lingo). I had to un-bottle it, put it back in a fermenter, and add a carefully-measured dose of wine tannin, giving it just that bit of bite that balances the sweetness. It also darkened the color noticeably, which I wasn’t too happy about. Can’t argue with results, though.

The only other problem: There are only 6 bottles of this left in the world. -m

Friday, August 8th, 2008

It would be awesome if somebody…

It would be awesome of someone made a site that catalogued all the common mis-encodings. Even in 2008, I see these things all over the web–mangled quotation marks, apostrophes, em-dashes. I’d love to see a pictoral guide.

curly apostrophe looks like ?’ – original encoding=_________ mislabeled as __________ .

That sort of thing. Surely somebody has done this arleady, right? -m

Thursday, August 7th, 2008

Great comment on the eRDF 1.1 discussion

On the eRDF discussion posting, Toby Inkster, an implementer of eRDF, talks about why it’s bad to steal the id attribute, and why RDFa is better suited for general purpose metadata. Worth a read. -m

Wednesday, August 6th, 2008

Happy 0x40 Anniversary, Mark I

It’s been 0x40 years since the dedication of the Mark I. Wired has some great photos and background information. Less than a year later, Vannevar Bush would advance the state of the art with his article As We May Think. A year-and-a-half later, ENIAC unveiled, and with it Turing-completeness. And things have been speeding up ever since. -m

Tuesday, August 5th, 2008

Two miles barefoot

Without the bike commute, I’m back to barefoot running for exercise. I can now do a stretch of 2 miles on asphalt with no problems (other than sore calves). Why barefoot? Because it feels better, and it’s ultimately easier on the joints. The human biomechanical system does excellent work if you let it, and is easily capable of soft landings via shock-absorption in the knees, ankles, and musculature. In contrast, when one wears shoes, it’s too easy to slam the feet down and let the padding (attempt to) take care of impact management.

If you want to get started, go slowly. For a month I only walked, starting out with very short distances. I’m at the point now when I see a new texture of carpet, hardwood, or other floors, I’m tempted to kick my shoes off and sample.

Alas, I don’t think I’ll be ready for the Nike+ Human Race 10k coming up on August 31. (And I wonder how many runners in a shoe-company-sponosred race will be barefoot) :-) -m

Monday, August 4th, 2008

Implementing RDFa in XQuery

Through the weekend I put most of the final touches on an implementation of RDFa in XQuery. The implementation is based on the functional specification of RDFa, an offshoot of the excellent work coming out of the W3C task force.

The spec contains a procedural description of the parsing algorithm, and several have successfully followed it to arrive at a conforming implementation. But you would have tough times explaining RDFa to someone that way. The functional description sort of fell out of the way I described RDFa to people.

“When you see an element with XXXX, you generate a triple, using SSSS as the subject, PPPP as the predicate, and OOOO as the object.”

Which arguably is the more natural way to express the algorithm for functional languages like XQuery or XSLT. Fill in the right blanks and you pretty much have it. In practice, it’s somewhat more complicated, but not nearly so much as with other W3C specs.

I hope to make the code available soon. You’ll hear about it first here.

I’ll write more when I’m not exhausted. :-) -m